Horror stories behind the AG Report- 1


We are sometimes, no let me restate that- always appalled at the snootiness of lawmakers who poke fun and trivialize the serious side of governance. A clear example of such attitude involves the recent nonchalant responses surrounding the delayed supply of the auditor’s general report. It is true there is no law that demands the Auditor’s Report be given alongside budget documents. Using the same argument, there are no laws on many things either. The lawyer’s un-lawyerly adage is you can break any laws as long as you are not caught.

It is also equally true, in the interest of good governance and accountability which any responsible government pledges itself to, the AG Report must be expeditiously supplied to lawmakers. Otherwise, it gives rise to a cause of concern that the delay is an attempt to shorten a critical assessment of the spending habits of government agencies. Lawmakers are guided by a higher sense of propriety, responsibility and accountability that demands they operate beyond the technical confines of written rules.

So it is correct  and proper when lawmakers demand to see the AG Report that by convention is provided alongside budget documents. It was disingenuous for a lawmaker to state recently that there is no law compelling the AG Report  be supplied together with other budget documents.

In my experience as an ADUN in Pahang, the auditor’s report came along with the budget documents. This is necessary for legislators to go through the spending habits of institutions of government. That will ensure matters are debated as they should be.

The AG Report has acquired the status of almost an absolutely necessary addendum for the purpose of intelligent and responsible analysis of government spending habits. I have found them necessary to provide justification or grounded criticisms to the spending habits of government.Probably because there are not so many intelligent people on the government front benches, the AG report is seen as not crucial for a healthy debate in our parliament.

It is in these documents that we find most justifications for the criticisms directed at deficit spending and of government debt. By the way, the claim that 2012 debt is within tolerance limits is simply the result of artful manipulation of the 2012 GDP figures. When the finance minister announces that our GDP will grow by 5-6%, as a percentage or proportion, the 2012 debt will indeed remain within our psychological barrier. It enabled the minister to state our debt to GDP ratio is good. In terms of absolute numbers on the other hand, the debt to GDP ratio is much bigger than last year’s. So, the declaration that the economy will grow by 5-6% was necessary so as to keep the proportion of debt to GDP acceptable. It was just a trick.

The more pointed criticisms about deficit budget are the hidden financial indiscipline that goes along with spending with wanton abandon.  The ministry waiting and wanting to be crucified is the Tourism Ministry because its minister is loud and appears to be pushing her bravado image to the limits. And so she reaps what she has sowed.